Sanskrit & Trika Shaivism (English-Home)

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 Protoshaivism (English)

An introductory study

Published: March 03, 2003

Author: Andrés Muni

Article originally in Spanish and brought to you in English by Gabriel Pradīpaka

The Indian social structure has allowed the different ethnic groups to survive in India without being destroyed o mixed, keeping their culture and institutions for the most part, a situation that somewhere else would have bring about their destruction or abolition by the dominating groups. Thus, rites and beliefs of the Mediterranean world and Middle East have remained almost intact since the ancient times.

The ethnic groups were identified by means of their linguistic features, besides their physical characteristics. The Munda, Dravidian and Aryan languages stood for those linguistic features. These three groups were related to the three great ages of the development of the civilizations: Paleolithic, Neolithic and Modern. The ādivasi-s (first inhabitants) of India spoke in Munda or Mom-khmer. These people physically look like the Neanderthal man. The Veddas of Ceylon and the Gonds of Central India belong to this group of protoaustraloids. They are thought of as the oldest inhabitants in Europe, as well as Africa and India. This race of little dark-skinned men populated Europe early in the Neolithic, but it was gradually annihilated by the Cro-Magnon men, who were more robust.

During the Neolithic period, bronzecolor-skinned lank-haired people that spoke in an agglutinating language appeared in India. Its origin is uncertain... they are called Dravidian, a word that is derived from the Prākṛta (vernacular language) known as "damil" (Tamil now). The religion of these people was Shaivism. The Dravidian language and culture, which are even today those of the populations residing in Southern India, spread their influence, before the Aryan invasions, from India to the Mediterranean region. Linguistic vestiges of this civilization still may be found in such languages as Georgian, Basque, Sumerian, Pelasgian, Illyrian, Cretan, Etruscan and the dialects of Beluchistan. The Dravidian languages share a common origin with the Finn-Ugric ones (Finn-Baltic, Hungarian, Volgaic, Uralian and Samoyed) and the Altaic ones (Mongolian, Eskimo and Turkish).

Thus, through Middle East and the Mediterranean world, an important civilization of Asian origin was the means that spread the Śaiva thought, its symbols and myths, as indicated by the megalithic monuments, religious myths and cults common to India and the Mediterranean world (e.g., the cities of Crete, Malta and Sumeria). The cities from India, specially Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, did exist since 3800 B. C. and lasted until they were destroyed by the Aryan invaders about 1800 B. C. Their main religion was Shaivism (the seals show the phallic horned Śiva, sitting in lotus posture or dancing in the form of Naṭarāja). There are śaiva-s symbols such as stone phalli, swastikas, images of bull, snake and goddess of the mountains (Pārvatī).

The migration of nomad Aryan peoples that left the Russian regions (possibly for reasons related to weather) ended up invading Europe, India and Middle East through successive surges. In the period since 2300 to 1900 B. C., cities of Asia Minor were plundered. The Vedic texts narrate the wars against the Dasa and Pani, who were the survivors of the Indian civilizations and rejected the Vedic cult. They spoke a strange language and worshipped Śiśnadeva (the phallus god), grazed big flocks and lived in fortified cities (pura-s); they were dark-skinned and little-nosed. According to the Puranic (pertaining to the 18 Purāṇa-s or ancient narrations) genealogy, with the war of Mahābhārata finished the Aryan conquest of India (1400 B. C.) in the Madhyadeśa (the middle territory comprising New Delhi).

The four religions of the ancient India are related to four different conceptions of the gods and the world. The first conception is the animistic one. Here, man venerates subtle forces beyond the senses, and calls them spirits or gods. In this manner, man becomes conscious of the divine aspects residing in the woods, rivers, fountains and mountains: for an animistic man, "all is sacred". The respect for the spirit inhabiting all things allows an intuitive knowledge which the logic thought cannot reach. The animism runs counter to landownership, agriculture and urban social life: hunting is the means of support, and gods and spirits demand offerings.

It is in this environment that the Muruhan or Kumāra (the boy) cult is developed, who has its counterpart in the Cretan Kouros. He is an adolescent deity, god of Beauty and War, thirsty for the blood of those animals sacrificed in his honor. This cult is born among the ādivasi-s (first inhabitants), whose tribes spoke in Munda language, and its symbols are cock, ram and stake.

During the Neolithic period and also early in the Bronze Age, the Paśupati (Lord of the limited beings, who are like animals in comparison with the Godhead) and Pārvatī (lady of the mountains) cults become consolidated among the Dravidian invaders. In Crete, the names of Zagreus and Cybele appear, and they will be present in all civilizations culturally and linguistically linked to the Dravidian world. This religion is characterized by the worship given to the phallus, snake, bull, as well as lion and tiger (which are ridden by the goddess).

Late in 6000 B. C., the historic Shaivism becomes consolidated through the fusion of the animistic and Dravidian cults. The historic Shaivism will continue to be in vogue until the arrival of the Aryan invaders. Muruhan is turned into the son of Śiva and called Kumāra (boy) or Skanda (spilling or effusion -it refers to sperm-); he is born in a canebrake and is fed by nymphs. In other regions he is known as Dionyssos ("Dionysius", in English). Paśupati has his counterpart in the form of the Cretan god Zagreus, afterward called Kretagenes. His legend, like those of Śiva and Skanda, was gradually mixing up with that of Dionyssos.

Other of the religions is Jainism, which believes in the transmigration (metempsychosis) and the development of man through multiple animal and human existences. Jainism postulates the impossibility of a link between the human aspect and that which is supernatural or supernormal: there is no certainty that a creating principle, efficient cause or god exists. Jainism has a strong moral sense, demands respect for life, a strict vegetarianism and nakedness from the adepts, primeval Buddhism being one of its adaptations. The Jains (followers of Jainism) developed a strong missionary activity and bore greatly upon some Greek philosophical schools and upon Orphism too. Then, Hinduism absorbed vegetarianism and the theory of transmigration from Jainism, principles that did not exist in Hinduism originally, just as they did not in Shaivism and Vedic culture either.

With the Aryan invasions (from "ārya": rich, noble by wealth; the meanings "powerful, noble, noble by nature, by excellence" derive from that), the religion of the nomad tribes from Central Asia becomes dominant in India and the Mediterranean world. The gods of that religion are the personification of natural phenomena or human virtues. Thus, Indra is the god of the thunderbolt, Varuṇa is that of the waters, Agni is that of the fire, Dyaus is that of the air, Aryamā is that of honor, Bhaga is that of the distribution of assets and goods, Rudra is the destroyer (who was identified with Śiva later on).

This religion wants two things for man: the backup from the gods so that he may gets protection, and the control of Nature. Since 2000 B. C., the Aryan Vedic religion absorbs Shaivism in a gradual manner. A product of this is the subsequent Hinduism and the Greek and Mycenaean religions. Shaivism resists this fusion and cyclically reappears in its primitive form in India, like Hellenic Dionyssism and after that like mystic or esoteric sects. Orphism is a product of the Jainist influence on Shaivism/Dionyssism.

These four great currents of religious thought (animism, Dravidian cult, Jainism and Aryan cult) were the base for almost all the existent forms of religion, including the Semitic ones (Judaism, Christianity and Islamism). The Semitic Egyptian civilization absorbed numerous śaiva elements (specially the Osiris cult), but later, monotheism would push the Semitic religions away from their ancient religious and cosmologic thought.

During the sixth millennium B. C. (early in the Neolithic period) Shaivism is consolidated, as a result from the animistic conceptions and the religious experience of the prehistoric man. Since then, śaiva symbols and rites appear in India and the Mediterranean world: worship given to phallus, ram, bull, snake, lady of the mountains, and labyrinth; along with swastika (gammadion) and ecstatic dance. The testimonies of these cults go back so far in the human history and comprehend so many regions, that it is uncertain to define a point of origin. Only in India, the śaiva tradition and its rites have been continuously preserved since prehistory to the present day.

Unity in the origin of Shaivism together with its enormous and vast influence is evident in the multiple likenesses among the mythological narratives. The group of symbols related to the Śiva cult: horned god, bull, snake, erect phallus, ram, lady of the mountains, etc. is found in the agricultural civilization that appears about 6000 B. C. and comprises Southern Asia, Africa and Europe. The first strongly śaiva figures or forms are found in Anatolia (6000 B. C.). In the origin of the Egyptian civilization appear the bull, ram and Osiris cults (there is a huge figure of the Egyptian god Min -phallic- which dates from 5000 B. C.).

About 4500 B. C., Minoan peoples arrive in Crete, Cyprus, Santorini, Malta and Anatolia. Images of the bull god or horned god are found in Mohenjo Daro, in the Preceltic civilizations, in the Minoan ones and in regions situated in southeastern Asia (Cambodia and Bali). Since 4000 B. C., Indian civilization is developed; Sumerian people arrive by sea at Mesopotamia from India, thus influencing the region of Middle East, Crete and continental Greece. Since 3000 B. C. until the Aryan invasions, the civilization of India was developed parallel to those of Sumeria and Cnossos, which affected Europe in its entirety, as well as the central and eastern zones of India along with southeastern Asia.

About 3000 B. C. the historic deluge occurred, which divided the Sumerian dynasties into prediluvian and postdiluvian. Indian chronology states that this time marked the beginning of Kaliyuga (age of conflicts). At that moment, a Mediterranean people proceeding from the Iberian peninsula appears in Malta and Armorica (now Brittany). These people introduce a new religion and funeral rituals. In turn, they establish the civilization of the megaliths: statues/menhirs from Liguria, Alto Adige (Italy), Stonehenge (Great Britain); and are strongly influenced by their contact with Iberia, Crete and Middle East.

The Mediterranean world

Minoan civilization dates back to about 5000 B. C., but its apogee is attained in the millennium 2800-1800 B. C. This civilization is developed at the same time as the postdiluvian Sumerian civilization and those from India (Mohenjo Daro). The śaiva myths and rites with Dionysian elements bursts in the West through Minoan civilization and its Greek inheritors.

The Cretan civilization was greatly developed thanks to the enormous influence of the Asian civilizations, and it kept a fluent touch with Egypt, Greece and Middle East throughout its entire existence. Just as in the Mesopotamian civilizations, in the Cretan civilization do exist numerous symbols which are typical of Shaivism: snake, young god, goddess of the mountains, bull, lion, he-goat, sacred tree, phallic column, bull sacrifice, Minotaur, ecstatic dance of Koryvandes and Kuretes (similar to the companions -gaṇa- of Śiva), as well as swastika, labyrinth and double-edged ax, which are related to India and the agricultural cult. The myths linked to the adolescent god and the goddess of the mountains have their counterpart in those of Śiva and Pārvatī (from India), Ishtar and Tammuz (Babylonian), Isis and Osiris (Egyptian), Venus and Adonis (Greek).

The invaders who set fire to the main cities of the Minoan civilization (about 1400 B. C.) are identified with the Homeric Achaean that destroyed Ugarit and Troy in the thirteenth century B. C. The Achaean that arrived in Crete gave the name of their heavenly god (Zeus) to a Minoan godhead (Zagreus). During the second Minoan period, by Achaean influence, Zeus/Zagreus is known by the name of Dionyssos (god of Nyssa, near Peshawar, to the north of Pakistan today). The expansion of the Cretan religion was remarkable, influencing the Greek religion and thought. The reappearance of Shaivism/Dionyssism is the return to a archaic religion that underlay despite the invasions and harassments.

The ancient god of Anatolia, Sumeria, Crete and continental prehellenic Greece just looked strange and odd to the Achaean and Dorian invaders. Dionyssism was the old Shaivism of the Indo-Mediterranean world that gradually recovered its place in a world now dominated by the Aryan people. A process of absorption with similar characteristics had happened in India: Shaivism had been mixed with Vedic Brahmanism, producing significant changes. The Vedic religion absorbed and incorporated rites from other cults by adapting them to meet its needs. It took such a great number of things from the Dravidian institutions and other peoples of India, that it is impossible to separate that from the original Aryan elements.

In the Hellenic world, the unity between the Śaiva and Dionysian cults was recognized and admitted. The Greek explained the similarity existing between the worships given to Śiva and Dionyssos from an expedition by the latter to India. Dionyssos had traveled to India to spread his cult, together with an army consisting of Maenads and Satyrs, and had ended up conquering that country. The ancient Hebrew people had also been strongly influenced by the Dravidian world and Shaivism (from Abraham -proceeding from Ur, in Sumeria- to David, the Hebrew took part in rites of ecstasy).

In Egypt, the myth of Osiris is related to the śaiva myths. Osiris is the god of trees and plants, and he represents generation and growth. The Greek identified him with Dionyssos (this parallelism of cults appears during the Cretan civilization). Osiris had come from India on a bull's back and included the Satyrs in his army. Then, he went back to India in order to found plenty of cities. The relationships between Egypt and India were extremely old (it existed a fluent important trade through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea).

In England, Brittany, Greece, Italy, Corsica, Arabia and India, there are stone phalli adorned with a face or surrounded by a serpent. In all the Mediterranean world there are traces of the bull cult and sacrifice, snake cult, ecstatic dances, legends related to the child that was born in a canebrake and fed by the Nymphs, the god of life that dies and resurrects, thus joining the mysteries of generation and death together.

Therefore, this has been a mere brief introduction to the history of Shaivism, a very long and complex subject, undoubtedly.

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